MoviePass’ old stale song and dance

In the beginning, MoviePass’ popularity rose quickly due to its unlimited $9.99/month plan that allowed users to watch a movie a day. Sometime in the 2018 summer, the company stopped the plan since it was bleeding cash and on the verge of bankruptcy. Of course, when you buy goods at retail prices and sell them to your customers at wholesale prices, you are doomed to empty your own bank account.

Fast forward to now, after several changes in its plans, MoviePass announced the comeback of its unlimited plan, with some changes.

Source: MoviePass

The plan is $5 more expensive than its previous version. If subscribed to an annual plan, users can get the plan at $9.95. However, the thing that caught my attention is the text below the “Get Started” button. It reads: “*Your movie choices may be restricted due to excessive individual usage which negatively impacts system-wide capacity. See Terms of Use section 2.5 for further details”.

Curious, I went to the Terms of Use section and found out a couple of other points that should be called out

2.4. MoviePass reserves the right to change or modify the Service or subscriptions at any time and in its sole discretion, including but not limited to applicable prices, without prior notice. MoviePass reserves the right to change the rules of movie-going attendance and ticket availability to subscribers in connection with the Service at any time. 

2.5. MoviePass makes no guarantee on the availability to any particular theater, showtime, or title that is presented in our app. MoviePass ticket inventory may vary from specific theater ticket inventory. MoviePass reserves the right to adjust its inventory to maintain fair access and usage to its full customer base. MoviePass may utilize its proprietary data and algorithms to impose restrictions on individual users based on their location, day of movie, time of movie, title, and the individual user’s historical usage. This means that MoviePass has the right to limit the selection of movies and/or the times of available movies should your individual use adversely impact MoviePass’s system-wide capacity or the availability of the Service for other subscribers.

2.6 You agree to choose the movie title, theater, and showtime up to no more than three (3) hours prior to the selected showtime, through the MoviePass App.

Source: MoviePass Terms of Service

To be fair, writing an encompassing Terms and Conditions text is a standard in the service business. I wouldn’t be surprised if MoviePass had the same terms one year ago. But how could one person “negatively impacts system-wide capacity”? MoviePass has this clause in place to leave some room to wriggle itself out of blockbuster movies that attract moviegoers and inflict losses. Furthermore, it is different now than it was a year ago.

I personally used the original unlimited plan in the last month before it was terminated. I could book any showtimes at any hour that I liked. There was no restriction on the selection of movies. Nonetheless, MoviePass started to remove the unlimited part of the plan and added restrictions on showtimes and movie selection. It’s very likely that they would do it again this time. Plus, users can only book movies 3 hours before the showtime. It’s very limiting and didn’t exist one year ago.

If you call a plan uncapped, yet have some unpleasant surprised in store for users, odds are that users will be greatly disappointed. Disappointed users are not what you want in the subscription business, especially given that the business model is inherently flawed in the first place and that there is great competition in AMC or other streaming services. There seems to be ample ingredients for another failure by MoviePass.

What could go wrong this time?

Apple’s abuse of power

When I jogged down my thought on Senator Warren’s plan to break up Apple, I was wrong when I put:

 I also fail to recall an instance where Apple released a certain product/service and abused its power to favor the product/service.

I failed indeed as it turned out, Apple has, to Spotify.

Spotify has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple, citing its abuse of power to favor its Apple Music. It also launched a website to detail the abusive power of the iPhone maker.

I am still of opinion that there are expenses involved in running AppStore such as security patches, payment, language translation, fraud prevention, and so on. These expenses can be considered justification of the 30% revenue tax imposed by Apple, though it’s not unreasonable to say that it’s a bit too high. Nonetheless, it creates unfair advantages for Apple when the tax is imposed on apps that compete with Apple’s own such as Apple Music as in the case of Spotify. Worse, Apple threw restrictions at Spotify in order to reduce competition for Apple Music as detailed in the website above.

I am genuinely disappointed in myself for the inaccurate statement I made. I still think Senator Warren’s call to break up Apple from AppStore is impractical and over-reaching. However, they do need to answer for the abusive behavior like they have shown to Spotify and should take actions in similar cases moving forward to ensure a fair competition to apps makers.

Lesson learned for me.

Concern over Facebook’s new privacy-focused vision

A few days ago, Mark Zuckerberg shared with the world his privacy-focused vision for Facebook moving forward. I understand that it may make sense strategically for the company, but I have real concerns over the feasibility of the strategy.

Lack of trust

Facebook has been littered with scandals for the past two years. The trust between the blue brand and users isn’t particularly at its all-time high. There have been documented evidence on the exodus of users from Facebook or the significant decrease in activities. If the trust is already shaky, why would users trust Facebook with every aspect of their life by using their proposed super app? (The super app concept is similar to WeChat, which users can use to do many things while on the platform such as booking movie tickets, paying bills, transferring money to friends and families…). If we can’t trust Facebook with just daily communication, how can we entrust it with more aspects of our life? If you can’t trust a dentist to treat your teeth, would you trust that dentist if he said he could fix your eyes?

The audience

I think one of the reasons why WeChat is successful is because of the target audience. Coming from that part of the world, I can say from personal experience that we Asians tend to not care as much as Western audience about privacy. I think there is a reason why WeChat hasn’t been as successful overseas as it is in China. If it were marketed to Western audience, given its relationship with the Chinese government and Western users’ concern over privacy, I don’t think it would be a triumphant effort. Hence, to convince Western users to use Facebook for everything, the trust has to be pretty solid. It’s not there now for sure.

Regulatory hurdles

Facebook has attracted unwelcome attention from lawmakers recently. And for a good reason. Even if they had done nothing wrong, which is definitely not the case, I suspect that the road to the super app vision wouldn’t be without robust challenges from the regulatory perspective.

Essentially, it’s all well and good for Facebook to change its stance on privacy. However, the trust isn’t there. I would love to see more concrete actions to transition from a company whose more than 95% of its revenue is from ads to a company that values privacy first. I am not a believer at the moment since Facebook has used up the rope we gave them already. If they want us to trust them again, they have to do it the hard way. And I think they have to hurry as well as the world won’t stand still for them. If this is the vision that makes business sense, others will go for it as well.

If they are committed and succeed in the future, kudos to them. Until then, I choose to remain skeptical of the vision.

Elizabeth Warren’s call to break up Apple

I wrote yesterday on Elizabeth Warren’s plan to break up yesterday. I thought that was that, but apparently she followed up with a call to break up Apple as she laid out in an interview with The Verge.

You were very specific in how you’d break up Google and the rest. How would you break up Apple?

Apple, you’ve got to break it apart from their App Store. It’s got to be one or the other. Either they run the platform or they play in the store. They don’t get to do both at the same time. So it’s the same notion.

Pulling that apart, the App Store is the method by which Apple keeps the iPhone secure. It’s integrated into the platform. How would you propose that Apple and Google distribute apps if they don’t run the store?

Well, are they in competition with others who are developing the products? That’s the problem all the way through this, and it’s it’s what you have to keep looking for.

If you run a platform where others come to sell, then you don’t get to sell your own items on the platform because you have two comparative advantages. One, you’ve sucked up information about every buyer and every seller before you’ve made a decision about what you’re going to to sell. And second, you have the capacity — because you run the platform — to prefer your product over anyone else’s product. It gives an enormous comparative advantage to the platform.

Users love Apple products because of the combination of hardware and their exclusive software. What good is a phone without functioning and useful apps? Apple distributes apps on their devices through App Store and that’s why I don’t understand what she meant by “breaking it apart from App Store”. From a consumer standpoint, Apple leads all manufacturers in terms of customer satisfaction. If any of her plans were about protecting consumer interests, this one didn’t seem to fit the bill.

Source: American Customer Satisfaction Index

Here is what Tim Cook reported in the latest earning call:

The latest survey of U.S. consumers from 451 Research indicates customer satisfaction of 99% for iPhone XR, XS and XS Max combined. And among business buyers who plan to purchase smartphones in the March quarter 81% plan to purchase iPhones. Based on the latest information from Kantar, iPhone experienced a 90% customer loyalty rating for iPhone customers in the U.S. 23 points above the next highest brand measured.

The most recent consumer survey from 451 Research measured a 94% customer satisfaction rating for iPad overall, with iPad Pro models scoring as high as 100%.
Among business customers who plan to purchase tablets in the March quarter, 68% plan to purchase iPads. 

Source: Seeking Alpha

From a developer perspective, I wrote about how much Apple paid out to developers over years:

As of June 2017, developers earned $70 billion from App store since its launch in 2008. As of January 2019, the figure went up to $120 billion. Moreover, we are about to see their investment in original content as their streaming service is reportedly going to be live this April.

I can understand why folks complain about the hefty 30% Apple tax on App Store, but thanks to Apple and AppStore, developers and businesses have generated a tremendous amount of revenue, to the tune of $120 billion over the years. Techcrunch reported a comparison between Google Play and AppStore about 5 months ago

According to SensorTower, an average iPhone user spent more on apps in 2018 than they did in 2017.

iPhone Per Active Device Average Revenue U.S. 2015 to 2018
Source: SensorTower

If Apple and AppStore are making consumers happy and bringing developers/app makers money, what exactly is the reason for breaking Apple apart from the AppStore, undermining the control over the ecosystem?

Also, there is a difference between making money off user data and making money off products/services improved by the use of data analysis. If you can mine data to improve services and products, you must be a fool not to. Website administrators use Google Analytics to improve website performance. Netflix uses data to see what shows you may be interested in. Google uses your data to improve the search algorithm to make it more relevant and fast. What is wrong with all of that? I also fail to recall an instance where Apple released a certain product/service and abused its power to favor the product/service.

In short, the interview with The Verge made me even more disappointed in her after yesterday, something I didn’t imagine would happen so fast. A friend of mine mentioned that she represented the left. I don’t think this has anything to do with the political ideologies. Understanding how these technology companies work has nothing to do with one’s political view. It’s concerning to have a Presidential candidate with that ill-informed hostility to the growth engine of the US economy.

Weekly readings – 9th March 2019

Shared scooters don’t last long – a bear case for shared e-scooters. I rode Lime once in Austin. Coming from a country where the primary transportation means is scooters, I see it first-hand what a similar experience is like. Don’t get me wrong. The technology is impressive, but I wasn’t that excited. There is a lot to figure, not only from the economic perspective, but also from the logistics side. People throw scooters left and right on pavements. When the number of scooters explodes, what would happen then? On top of that, there have been quite a number of documented accidents so far from scooters. Finally, I am a fan of public transportation. I’d love to see America invest more in public transit than in shared scooters.

Civil rights under Trump – Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj. Important information on what is going on in the US and the Census going into 2020.

Warren Buffett’s FAQ. An impressive collection of WB’s perspectives in different areas

HQ2: Understanding What Happened & Why. I don’t really care that much about the whole situation because 1) different stakeholders (Amazon, citizens in the neighborhood, politicians who want to create jobs, politicians who dislike the potential impact on the neighborhood) have different interests. 2) Nobody could guarantee the outcome if the deal went through. Nonetheless, it’s a very good and informative piece, most of which I tend to agree with.

Its Not Capitalism, its Crony Capitalism. An interesting perspective that is elegantly explained. To me, greed is good, but too much greed is terrible. What people hate and talk about on the news is too much greed. Who wouldn’t want to make money out of their innovation or effort? On the other hand, if education and healthcare are too expensive to afford as they are in the US, why would it be a draconian thing to give some support to the citizens? Social benefits DONT equal to socialism. You also need a nationalization of the economy which the US doesn’t have.

How to Shoot on iPhone series. I am a big fan of short, simple and educational marketing videos. Love this series from Apple. If they can continue to release videos like these to help unlock the functionalities and usage of the hardware, chances are that users would love them even more.

This is actually a double. BestBuy and Target transformation. Retail is interesting as a space to watch. I don’t believe in the apocalypse of bricks-and-mortar stores as many predict. In fact, Target, as mentioned in the article, increased its footprint. I documented some retailers which increased footprint here as well. It’s a matter of responding to the changes in the business environment. If a retailer refuses to embrace technology or to change, the doom is imminent. But if you have a game plan to leverage technology to keep your competitive advantages, it’s not a “it’s Amazon’s to lose” situation. At least not yet.

Elizabeth Warren’s big (ridiculous) plan

Elizabeth Warren, one of the politicians who announced intention to run for the Presidency in 2020, released a blog post today outlining her plan to break up technology companies, if she is elected.

It’s ridiculous in my opinion.

I totally agree with Senator Warren on the role of promoting competition, because 1) it’s good for small-and-medium sized businesses; and 2) more importantly, it’s good for consumers. When there is competition to earn consumers’ money, it’s the consumers who reap the benefits.

Senator Warren’s whole piece seems to focus only on the first point above and neglect the second one, which in my opinion is the more important between the two. In her blog post, the Senator had a bolded claim that reads: “How the new tech monopolies hurt small businesses and innovation”. It depends on which industry she was referring to. It can be argued that Google’s monopoly can stifle any search engine startups, but it’s unfair to imply that Google can threaten in manufacturing industries and many others that are not where Google operates.

She accused tech powerhouses to use M&A to kill competition. Without Google, would Android and millions of users around the world have an established alternative to Apple today? One of the reasons why companies do M&A is to gain capabilities in a short amount of time. It’s like when you don’t know speak Japanese, instead of spending easily a decade to learn the language, you can hire somebody from Japan tomorrow and start doing business. The same thing applies to companies. Rather than spend money and years on R&D without guaranteed success, companies can acquire the capabilities available on the market quickly and reduce the risk of missing out strategic opportunities. The acquired companies can leverage resources at the acquirers to evolve to the next level. There is an argument to be made about Instagram & Facebook, Disney and Marvel, VMWare and Nicira.

Here is what she had to say on marketplaces

Using Proprietary Marketplaces to Limit Competition. Many big tech companies own a marketplace — where buyers and sellers transact — while also participating on the marketplace. This can create a conflict of interest that undermines competition. Amazon crushes small companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon Marketplace and then selling its own branded version. Google allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp.

There is some truth in what she said, but selling private labels and running a marketplace are two different things. If the private labels, as in the case of Amazon, are crappy, Amazon won’t be able to sell them. If Google-favored content isn’t in the best interest of users, they won’t consume it. Functioning as a marketplace, Amazon and Google generate revenue by offering a marketing channel and logistics help to vendors. Small businesses can sell goods on Amazon without worrying much about building a supply chain on its own. For many businesses, Google is the best way to reach online users. I can buy in the claim that these tech companies can be unfavorably biased to vendors which sell competing services/products, but the tech firms do also help a lot of other small guys.

Here is another point she made:

Weak antitrust enforcement has led to a dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector. Venture capitalists are now hesitant to fund new startups to compete with these big tech companies because it’s so easy for the big companies to either snap up growing competitors or drive them out of business.

Having big techs swallow startups IS an exit venture capitalists want to recoup their investments. I don’t know if she noticed, but there have been quite many VC funds that have one billion dollars or more. This argument is pretty shaky at best.

She threatened to unwind these mergers and acquisitions if she is elected:

Amazon: Whole Foods; Zappos
Facebook: WhatsApp; Instagram
Google: Waze; Nest; DoubleClick

I can see the point behind Facebook – WhatsApp – Instagram, but I honestly don’t know her rationale behind the other two. Amazon doesn’t have a monopoly on selling shoes online just because they acquired Zappos, not does it have monopoly on groceries just because of Whole Foods. Walmart is fighting back really hard and other retailers such as Target is also expanding their footprint because they embraced the digital trend to compete with Amazon. On the other hand, yes Google has the monopoly in search, but DoubleClick is NOT all the reasons for that monopoly. And what do Waze and Nest have to do with it? Also, Google won because it offered the best and fastest search to users. Take it apart and what would that do to users?

Don’t get me wrong. I am in favor of the RIGHT regulations to keep tech companies in check. We need to step up our game to protect users’ privacy. It’s just not any citizen’s job to write regulations. That’s why we elect politicians.

The whole blog post is not a well-thought-out piece on the topic. If she really wants to break up competition, look at the airlines. Look at the credit score companies. Look at the pharmaceuticals that have MONOPOLIES over drugs for 10-20 years. How many companies do you know produce airplanes? Boeing and Airbus, the list ends there for me and likely many others. How about Comcast, AT&T and Verizon?

To tackle this problem, it’s important to look at it from different perspectives. Tech corporations are not perfect, but it will be unfair just to look at their faults and ignore the benefits they bring to our lives.

Facebook’s privacy-focused vision

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg released a blog post on a “privacy-focused vision” that centers on:

Private interactions. People should have simple, intimate places where they have clear control over who can communicate with them and confidence that no one else can access what they share.

Encryption. People’s private communications should be secure. End-to-end encryption prevents anyone — including us — from seeing what people share on our services.

Reducing Permanence. People should be comfortable being themselves, and should not have to worry about what they share coming back to hurt them later. So we won’t keep messages or stories around for longer than necessary to deliver the service or longer than people want them.

Safety. People should expect that we will do everything we can to keep them safe on our services within the limits of what’s possible in an encrypted service.

Interoperability. People should be able to use any of our apps to reach their friends, and they should be able to communicate across networks easily and securely.

Secure data storage. People should expect that we won’t store sensitive data in countries with weak records on human rights like privacy and freedom of expression in order to protect data from being improperly accessed.

Be that as it may that this vision can bring business and strategic benefits, meaning that Facebook has a reason to follow suit. Nonetheless, I have nothing, but skepticisms about this vision.

First of all, the majority of Facebook’s revenue comes from ads. By majority, I meant 98.5% of their revenue in 2018 comes from ads

Source: Facebook

When something is 98.5% of you, any claim that you will do something threatening that 98.5% part tends to raise genuine concerns about its legitimacy.

Second of all, Facebook’s track record on keeping its promise isn’t that great. For the last two years, it will be a hard ask to find a tech company that is involved in more scandals than the blue brand. I came across this disturbing article from Buzzfeed on Facebook. Here is what it has on decision-making at Facebook

Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg do not make judgment calls “until pressure is applied,” said another former employee, who worked with Facebook’s leadership and declined to be named for fear of retribution. “That pressure could come from the press or regulators, but they’re not keen on decision-making until they’re forced to do so.”

Buzzfeed

On Facebook’s attention to privacy

One former employee noted that Facebook’s executives historically only took privacy seriously if problems affected the key metrics of daily active users, which totaled 1.52 billion accounts in December, or monthly active users, which totaled 2.32 billion accounts. Both figures increased by about 9% year-over-year in December.

“If it came down to user privacy or MAU growth, Facebook always chose the latter,” the person said. 

Buzzfeed

On their denial to admit problems:

Other sources told BuzzFeed News that Facebook executives continue to view the problems of 2018 fundamentally as communication issues. They said some insiders among leadership and the rank and file could not understand how Facebook had become the focus of so much public ire and floated the idea that news publications, who had seen their business models decimated by Facebook and Google, had been directed to cover the company in a harsher light.

Buzzfeed

On a new feature called Clear History:

“If you watch the presentation, we really had nothing to show anyone,” said one person, who was close to F8. “Mark just wanted to score some points.”

Still, nine months after its initial announcement, Clear History is nowhere to be found. A Facebook executive conceded in a December interview with Recode that “it’s taking longer than we initially thought” due to issues with how data is stored and processed. 

Buzzfeed

By now, you should see why I am skeptical of Facebook’s new vision. We all have to take a side and so does Facebook. It just happens that taking advertisers side means Facebook is not on ours as users.

Thoughts on Dell’s position in Enterprise IT world

I like to learn about business strategies, particularly in the technology world. This post is just to put into words my understanding of Dell’s position in the Enterprise IT sphere. While I spent a lot of my free time on reading to navigate through as much as possible the abstraction and complexity of the IT world, I can’t understand the products/services as well as I do with, let’s say, a streaming service like Netflix. With luck, I may get some constructive feedback on what I might be incorrect about or what I have here is useful to someone out there.

IT is no longer a cost center to companies. It is where companies gain competitive advantages as the world goes digital. There are several notable trends:

  • While public clouds such as Azure or AWS offer flexibility, geographical reach, functionalities, quick time-to-market and cost-effectiveness, private clouds provide more control and better security. Companies need both. Hence, hybrid cloud is where enterprises are headed. Multi-cloud is a flavor of hybrid cloud in that a firm may use different public clouds. Whether hybrid or multi-cloud model works for one firm depends on the business requirements and resources available to that firm
  • As enterprises have IT footprint on both the cloud and on-prem, it becomes a challenge to manage the whole network. It’s critical to know which data travels to where and whether data is safe. The challenge compounds when the need for productivity forces companies to use 3rd party cloud applications such as ServiceNow, Box and Google Drive, just to name a few. As a result, the management a, automation and security of, as well as visibility into the network are instrumental to a successful hybrid/multi cloud.
  • A lot of companies have operations in different locations. Banks have branches. Retailers have stores. These branches are important touch points through which customers expect to have great experience and services. And these branches need to talk to data centers or cloud application providers. The network that links branches, data centers and the cloud must be secure, efficient, manageable and cost-effective.
  • Brands must release applications fast and often to continuously bring values to customers. From a user perspective, that’s why we often have to update our mobile applications, but there is a lot more that goes behind the scenes for brands to bring new updates to life. In order to have fast and continuous software releases, companies need to set up the necessary infrastructure that allows developers to do their job quickly and efficiently. Hence, software-defined data center (SDDC) and Kubernetes have become increasingly popular. With SDDC, data centers can be set up and later scale quickly as new technological advances increasingly relieve engineers of time-consuming manual workload. With regard to software development, micro-services is the de facto approach in which Kubernetes is a major component. Developers either want to build new software from scratch using Kubernetes or re-package existing applications on a Kubernetes-based platform
Google Trends Graph on Kubernetes

Dell itself

In short, Dell offers services and products that help companies build and scale data centers such as backup, disaster recover, file systems, storage, SDDC solutions such as VxRack. As the majority shareholder of VMWare, Dell integrates a lot of VMWare products in some of its own. The integration is critical to seamless connection between on-prem infrastructure and data on public clouds. For instance, if a firm builds its data center on VxRack, Dell’s SDDC turnkey product, and deploys some workloads on AWS using VMWare on AWS, the data and applications on-prem and on AWS can be set up quickly to talk to each other. Plus, the firm can manage all workloads using the same VMWare interface.

VMWare

Essentially, VMWare has built itself to be the one ingredient that companies wishing to adopt hybrid cloud need. It has built partnerships with AWS, GCP and IBM as collaboration with Azure is reportedly in the work. On top of that, through its offerings such as vSAN (storage), vSphere (compute), NSX (network), VeloCloud (SD-WAN) and a host of services designed for analytics, management and security such as Workspace One, Wavefront, AppDefense or vRealize, it is the glue that connects 3rd party applications, public clouds, private clouds (data centers) and branches.

Through its acquisition of EMC, Dell is the majority shareholder of VMWare.

Pivotal

Pivotal is Dell’s answer to the world’s current obsession with micro-services and Kubernetes. Pivotal offers services that help companies build applications better, faster and more efficiently. Developers want automation to relieve them of infrastructure-managing tasks so that they can focus on developing code, but they don’t want to lose too much freedom in development. Through its portfolio, Pivotal strives to meet those needs. Heptio is their latest acquisition and provides managed Kubernetes services. With Heptio, developers are not subject to the limitations imposed by PAS, but at the exchange of limited automation. With PAS, there is a lot of automation, but developers may not appreciate the rules that come with a higher level of automation. PKS is supposed to bring a balanced mix and the best of both worlds. I wrote a bit about PaaS vs CaaS here

As in the case of VMWare, Dell owns Pivotal by virtue of its EMC acquisition.

Security

Dell has its own security subsidiary in SecureWorks, a $1.8 billion company as of this writing. In addition, VMWare has its own security solutions that are designed to improve security as NSX with micro-segmentation or AppDefense.

Conclusion

The more I read about Dell and its subsidiaries, the more I am impressed by its strategy and growth through innovation and M&A (EMC, VeloCloud, NSX…). Based on my understanding of where Dell stands in the Enterprise IT world, it seems to have the necessary pieces to take advantage of the IT trends mentioned above.

How a private sale promotion by a hotel chain works

I received positive feedback from a friend who found my post on revenue management in hospitality helpful with what he does. That means a lot to me since he is one of my best friends and sharing is one of the biggest reasons why I spend time and money on this endeavor. So I decided to write a bit more about hospitality, from my own experience. This time is about private sale in hotel chains.

Every hotel chain wants to keep guests in its loyalty program. Membership makes guests drawn more towards the brand when booking decisions loom. If you are in Marriott’s loyalty program, you are more interested in staying at Marriott properties to accumulate points and enjoy perks, if possible. To keep guests exclusive on its program and out of its competitors’, a chain needs to offer exclusive benefits. Private sale is one way to do so.

Before we go into the details of a private sale, it’s important to be aware of different rates a hotel can offer for a room on a certain date. Below is what I learned from working for Accor Hotels. I suspect that it will be the same for other chains, at least in principles.

Different rates for a room on Accorhotels.com

Following the screenshot above, it’s normal to see a few rates on a website when you book a room. The lowest one in Accor Hotels system is called R03 (Stay Longer and Save in the screenshot) while the Flexible Rate is called R01 (Flexible Rate). R03 rates are about 15% cheaper than R01 rates, but come with more restrictions such as no cancellation or no refund. B&B rates such as the last one in the screenshot are usually R01 rates plus breakfast.

A sale promotion from Accor Hotels is usually 2 weeks and can go up to 50% discount on normal rates. On the first day of the promotion, information on the sale is sent out to strictly Accor Members only. In the following 7-8 days, information will be shared with both Accor Members and Subscribers. Bookings can only take place on Accorhotels.com. After that, information will become public on online travel agents such as Booking.com or Expedia. If you are an Accor member, discount can go up to 50%. An Accor subscriber or non-member and indirect channel guests such as those on OTAs can enjoy 40% discount. That way, guests are more motivated to become members or subscribers of Accor Hotels in order to receive exclusive benefits.

Discount is applied to R01 rates, the higher tier as mentioned above, with the restrictions of R03 rates. That way, participating hotels in the program don’t ruin their Average Daily Rates or RevPar too much. On that point, if your property is in a hotel chain, you can opt in or out of a sale, depending on the state of your property. For instance, it makes no sense to participate in a sale if your hotel has high occupancy already and is expected to pick up more. Otherwise, a sale can be a good tool to fill up the rooms.

Podcast’s rising popularity and implications

When a new service/product rises, it usually elevates several support services/products as well. For instance, smartphones’ popularity was piggybacked by the rise of support services or products such as phone maintenance, smartphone cases and applications. The same case can be applied to podcasts. As podcasts continue to capture consumer interest with 2018 as the banner year, I suspect that support services and the whole podcast ecosystem will come alive in the near future.

Content creator

The presence of Spotify offers content creators an additional stream of revenue. If featured, creators can earn money whenever their content is consumed, in the same way that artists are compensated for their songs. Of course, content owners can still generate income from the tried-and-tested method of advertising. But having two streams of revenue is definitely better than having only one, isn’t it?

In extreme cases, some podcasts can be acquired in exchange for exclusive access as platforms engage in a hunting race to woo users. Creators with unique insights or knowledge will be better compensated for their hard work than they would in the past. Hence, niche podcasts will be springing up like mushrooms after the rain.

Content platform

Content creators can publish their work everywhere now, whether it’s Apple Podcast, Stitcher or Spotify. A normal piece of content is hardly exclusive. However, a platform needs exclusivity and original content to differentiate itself. Hence, if you are a comedian or an expert in a field such as archaeology, astronomy or economics and you deliver great content, you may be cast for an original show and earn money for your knowledge. Platforms are likely going on a shopping spree to secure highly sought-after content just like Spotify did with the acquisition of Gimlet Media. That way, the acquirers can reduce marginal costs to almost zero and become more profitable as the rate of consumption grows.

Support services

We already saw Anchor, a startup that specializes in podcast distribution, acquired by Spotify shortly after Anchor was founded. As more podcasts are created, marketers need tools to easily edit audio and turn audio into text. Transcripts will facilitate interaction with users and a boon for their SEO. In that sense, I expect that startups such as Descript will see more opportunities in the coming months.

More podcast consumption means rising interest from advertisers. As a consequence, there will be demand for data analytics to optimize advertising. Brands will be willing to pay to link podcast advertising with conversion into actual purchase, whether the purchase is online or offline.